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Workers exit the north side of Brockville's historic railway tunnel - Date unknown Ronald Zajac.
16 January 2017
Brockville Tunnel a 10 Year Project


Brockville Ontario - Transformation of Brockville's railway tunnel into a tourist attraction could take as long as 10 years, with at least one more phase beyond the second one to be discussed at city hall Tuesday.
 
That's one conclusion of a presentation slated for city council's finance, administration, and operations committee as it discusses a motion to hire consultants for the project's second phase.
 
The committee was to discuss a motion to hire Ottawa-based consultants MTBA Associates Inc., for $84,765, "to develop concepts for the former railway lands northeast of William and Brock Streets, including a public consultation process."
 
It would be the next step in preparing for the second phase of a tunnel restoration process that is currently underway.
 
It's also part of a broader vision to create a "Railway Tunnel Park" proponents say will put Brockville on the map.
 
An overhead presentation to councillors by Brockville Railway Tunnel Committee member Jack Kenny states that Railway Tunnel Park is "essentially a 10 year project."
 
Councillor David LeSueur, chairman of the tunnel committee, on Monday said that timeline is an estimate.
 
"We're basically going to take our time to get the design right and as the money comes in we'll build the priority items," he said.
 
The project's first phase, which costs nearly $4 million, aims to rehabilitate and restore the railway tunnel, considered Canada's oldest, and its north-portal gorge.
 
Workers are to secure the tunnel structurally, put in lighting and security cameras, and lay down a smooth concrete floor.
 
The first phase is also to include the purchase of the "Rotary Train," a rubber-wheeled vehicle that will ferry tourists between the north and south ends of the tunnel.
 
The tunnel group has so far secured more than $3.5 million in pledges and donations for the entire project, and is on track to have the first phase done on time for the 10-13 Aug 2017 celebrations of Canada's 150th anniversary.
 
The second phase involves redevelopment of the former Grand Trunk Railway/CN property west of the north-end gorge, a stretch of land the city now owns.
 
That phase includes bus and car parking areas, public restrooms, a tour train arrivals and departures area, and a tour train ticket office as "essential elements."
 
It could also include a replica railway roundhouse building that "would provide a multi-purpose community space" for events and an indoor farmers' market in the cold months, the report adds.
 
But the specifics of, and budget for, the second phase have yet to be determined.
 
"This is why we need some experts to help us," said LeSueur.
 
The committee's report adds a "future phase" with proposed improvements to Armagh Sifton Price Park at the tunnel's south end.
 
In early December, councillors stopped short of endorsing the hiring of MTBA pending more details.
 
"Council members were strongly in favour of Phase One," mayor David Henderson said Friday, but he added some were hesitant about the second phase.
 
"That's where there's more questions, concerns," said Henderson, who believes Tuesday's presentation will assuage many of those worries.
 
Henderson said he is relieved to see the work on Armagh Sifton Price Park relegated to a third phase rather than the next one.
 
Councillor Jason Baker, who last month expressed skepticism about the tunnel committee motion, said the information slated for Tuesday's meeting has made him more confident of the group's plans.
 
But Baker still questions the need to hire consultants to draw up a vision for the second phase, when plans for parking, restrooms, and a ticket office already inspire confidence.
 
"Spend the $85,000 building and designing it rather than consulting with the public on what they're after," said Baker, who nonetheless acknowledged members of the public could provide unexpected ideas.
 
Ronald Zajac.

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